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Converting Offices to Residential Use - Effect of The Article 4 Direction

Simon Dimmick

Simon Dimmick, Partner in our Planning & Environmental Law team, explains a recent decision by Bracknell Forest Borough Council’s executive committee. 

In 2013 the Government extended permitted development (“PD”) rights to enable offices to be converted to residential use.  The opportunity to change was intended to be temporary and was to expire on 30 May 2016. However, in October 2015 the then Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis announced that office to residential PD rights would be made permanent. 

In November 2016 figures released by the Department for Communities and Local Government revealed that 12,824 new homes were delivered under the office to residential permitted development rules. It is clear therefore that such rights are being utilised to increase housing stock. However, there are concerns about the erosion of office buildings and the effect residential dwellings will have on primarily business areas. 

Bracknell Forest Borough Council has itself granted prior approval for 812 flat conversions in 12 locations since July 2016. The Council is concerned with the lack of control over such conversions and the impact this has on the quality of office environments and the loss of office space (estimated to be a loss of 13,000 square metres). 

Following a consultation between February and May this year the Council’s executive committee resolved on 18 July 2017 to approve a “non-immediate” Article 4 Direction which would remove the office to residential permitted development rights from three business areas.  The Article 4 Direction will come into effect on 27 July 2018. The primary reason for delay is so that the Council can avoid compensation claims. 

The effect of the Article 4 Direction does not in itself prevent conversions from office to residential completely. However, instead of having the benefit of the PD rights you would need to apply for planning permission and therefore the proposal would need to be shown to be in line with the development plan and other planning policy. 

For more information, please contact a member of our Planning & Environmental law team.

This blog article was produced with support from Kayleigh Chapman.

This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.